by Walter Chantry
HT Chapel Library
The Covenants of Works and of Grace is a brief but clear presentation of the basic principles in Covenant Theology: that all of God’s dealings with man can be best understood in terms of these two eternal covenants. In the spirit of the Bereans, the author deals with the whole of Scripture to support and defend his premise. In many quarters, these principles have been overrun in our day by Dispensationalism, and its outworkings in Antinomianism and Arminianism. This booklet is a call to return to the historic faith of the Reformation.
It is difficult to know who was the first to call the doctrine of the covenants “the marrow of divinity” (or theology), but it is a most appropriate observation. Without bones the human body would be an unshaped glob of flesh. Without theology the ideas of Scripture would lie in an unshaped mass. Marrow is at the center of the bones which shape our body, and marrow gives health to the body. So the doctrine of the covenants is at the core of theology, and the health of any theological system depends on its understanding of this truth. It would be nearly impossible to overstate the central importance of the Biblical teaching on covenants.
In Genesis chapter three, we observe two covenants in action. Two very different covenants are in force at the same time. The Covenant of Works is not introduced for the first time in chapter three. But all of man’s hopes under the Covenant of Works were dashed here. The curse of the Covenant of Works is declared in this place and it begins to fall on Adam, his race, and his world.
The truly amazing thing is that, just as the curse of the Covenant of Works is imposed, a new covenant is published. Promises of the Covenant of Grace are announced (Gen 3:15) even before the curses of the first covenant are applied (3:19). Also astounding is the fact that Adam’s next recorded deed was an act of faith aroused by the Covenant of Grace. “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she would become the mother of all the living” (Gen 3:20). The head of sinners was not despairing over his colossal failure under the Covenant of Works. Nor was he overwhelmed by the dreadful curse of universal death which was announced. Rather he was hopeful. He was filled with optimism upon hearing the glorious and precious Covenant of Grace with its cheerful promises.
The Covenant of Grace arises from the ashes of the Covenant of Works. As man takes his first step into the ruins of the cursed earth, he does so trusting in the Covenant of Grace. These events are interpreters of the rest of the material in the Bible. Genesis begins at the beginning—with the framework for understanding all the Scriptures. If one misunderstands Genesis chapters one to three, he cannot possibly comprehend the remainder of the Bible. Genesis 3 and its two covenants dominate the experience and history of mankind and will continue to do so until this old and worried earth is destroyed.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Definitions of Covenant
2. Similarities and Differences in the Two Covenants
3. Implications from the Scriptural Presentation of Covenants
4. A Corrective to Perverted Views of Scripture